Goliad Masonic History

Goliad Ancient Free and Accepted Masons Lodge # 94 received its Charter in 1852 allowing Masons to meet and work in Goliad, TX under District 36 of The Grand Lodge of Texas.

The current lodge building is located at 113 Franklin St and though it was refurbished and extended in 1907, it was erected in 1854, of stones from the Presidio La Bahia! Meetings and ceremonies are still held in the Lodge building today, making it the oldest lodge building still in use in Texas!

This is an account of the beginnings of the organized Freemasonry in Goliad, from an independent source of history. "The History and Heritage of Goliad County", researched and compiled by the Goliad Historical Commission.

In early 1851, only 14 years after the formation of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas and six years after Texas became a state, a group of nine masons under the leadership of Alexander H. Biscoe, who was Mayor of Goliad, met for the purpose of requesting dispensation for the formation of a Masonic Lodge in Goliad. This dispensation has been preserved in the first page of the old lodge minutes.

"Whereas a petition has been presented to me by sundry brethren, to wit; Brothers A. H. Biscoe, John F. Hillyer, H. W. Campbell, J. R. Grantland, R. E. Sutton, Wm. C. Dear, L.S. Lipscomb, R. H. Hill and A. Hackworth residing at Goliad in County of Goliad and State of Texas - praying to be congregated into a regular lodge and promising to render obedience to the ancient usages and landmarks of the fraternity and the laws of the Grand Lodge - and whereas said petitioners have been recommended to me as master masons in good standing by the master, wardens and brethren of Victoria lodge under our jurisdiction ---

"Therefore I, W. B. Ochiltree, Grand Master of the most worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas, reposing full confidence in the recommendation aforesaid, and in the masonic integrity and ability of the petitioners, do by virtue of the authority vested, hereby grant this dispensation empowering and authorizing our trusty and well beloved brethren aforesaid to form a lodge after the manner of ancient free and accepted masons and therein to admit and make Freemasons according to the ancient custom and not otherwise---

"This dispensation is to continue in full force until the next annual communication of our Grand

Lodge aforesaid unless sooner revoked by constitutional authority - and I do hereby appoint Brother

Alexander H. Biscoe to be first master, Brother Robert E. Sutton to be the first senior warden and

Brother John F. Hillyer to be the first junior warden of said lodge ---

"And it shall be their duty and they are hereby required to return this dispensation with a correct

manuscript of all proceedings had under the authority of the same, together with an attested copy of

the by-laws to our Grand Lodge aforesaid at the expiration of the time herein specified for examination

and such further action in the premises as shall then be deemed wise and proper.

"Given under by hand under the authority of the Grand Lodge at Houston this twenty-second

day of July A.D. 1851, A.L. 5851." A. S. Ruthven, Grand Secretary. W. B. Ochiltree, Grand Master.

On August 18, 1851, at 8 p.m., the brethren met at the schoolhouse in Goliad and proceeded to open the first lodge of master masons in Goliad. Five days later, on the twenty-third of August, they met again to receive the-first two petitions for initiation into the first degree of masonry from J. R. Cloman and William Remick. On September 17, they again met to confer entered apprentice degrees on J. R. Cloman and Wm. Remick and received three more petitions. At a meeting on November 1, two more degrees were conferred and on the twelfth, by special dispensation from Deputy Grand Master Andrew Neill, Bro. Wm. S. McCampbell became the first master mason to be raised in the Goliad Lodge on January 3, 1852.

John F. Hillyer was sent as a delegate to the Grand Lodge of Texas in January, 1852 and a charter was issued on January 24, 1852. That original charter is still safeguarded in the Goliad lodge. Appointed officers were: Wm. C. Dear, Treasurer; L. S. Lipscomb, Secretary; J. R. Grantland, Senior Deacon; H. W. Campbell, Junior Deacon and A. Hackworth, Tiler.

Records do not indicate where the masons held their meetings in 1852 and 1853. It was on March 4, 1854 that plans and location were approved to construct a permanent lodge building and a contract was awarded to Wm. S. McCampbell and M. P. Rossman. A two story building was built near the city square and that same building is still in regular use at the corner of Franklin and South Commercial Streets. The building was built of native rubble stone, probably obtained 'from the quarry in the La Bahia area south of town and it is a tribute to those early masons who built so well that lodge meetings have been held continuously in the original building since 1854. It is the oldest masonic lodge building in continuous use in Texas and is possibly the oldest building in Goliad in active and continuous use by the original owners. The masonic lodge has met on the upper story, while the lower floor has been used over the years for a dining hall, as post office and by the city for several years. It has been a doctor's office and has served various other purposes.

The first major repairs to the building were made in 1869, to repair damage done by lightning. The disastrous tornado in 1902 apparently did little damage to the lodge building, but in 1906, under the leadership of Dr. L. W. Chilton, a new roof was installed and the front of the building was modernized. This accounts for the 1907 date on the upper front of the lodge roof. Lodge meetings in the 1850's and 1860's were usually held on Saturday nights by candlelight. The first lamp was bought in 1869 and in May, 1909, the first electric light was installed. By 1870, Goliad Lodge #94 was the largest masonic lodge in the coastal bend area and its members were active participants in every eventful and worthy activity and movement in Goliad County.

On March 2, 1894, members of Goliad Lodge officiated in laying the cornerstone in the northeast corner of the present Goliad County Courthouse and members of the lodge have served in most of the responsible offices in county government and law enforcement.

Goliad lodge records are reasonably complete and still legible, starting with the first historic meeting in 1851. These records reflect that from the mid 1850’s on, most of the pioneer families in Goliad had one or more family members who were masons. Many of these early members are buried in historic Oak Hills Cemetery and the masonic insignia is displayed on most of their headstones. The funeral of James E. Webb, Grand Master of all masons in Texas in 1843, was held in Goliad in 1856 and his grave site is prominently marked in Oak Hills Cemetery. James W. Fannin, a mason prominent in early Texas history, is buried just south of Goliad and the common grave site of Fannin and his heroic soldiers is marked with a prominent memorial.

Masonry is one of the oldest fraternal orders in the world and there are masonic lodges in every civilized, non-communist country. Honorable men from all walks of life are members of the masonic fraternity. Many of the presidents of the United States were masons. George Washington was master of his masonic lodge when he was president and the cornerstone of our United States capitol was laid with masonic ceremonies. The first presidents of the Republic of Texas were masons, as were many Texas governors.

A complete listing, even of the early members of this lodge would be a book in itself, however a list of the past masters is included, showing the years they served. This list contains only the top officers of the lodge, elected by members and, assisted by 10 other officers, elected or appointed, govern the lodge each year.

(This list can be found on the Past Masters page)