San Gabriel Masonic Lodge building
Narrative by Clara Scarbough
(note this narrative was
written some time back before the Lodge move to their new
building ) view
San Gabriel Lodge No. 89, A. F. & A. M
The present home of San Gabriel Masonic Lodge is one of
the handsome buildings on the Courthouse Square of Georgetown.
Built 75 years ago, its four walls were erected by the time the
famous Galveston storm hit September 8, 1900, and local citizens
were concerned that the terrific hurricane winds would damage or
tumble them. They needn't have worried. It was said then, and is
still often repeated, that if Belford Lumber Company built it,
it was the best. Belford had contracted to put up the two story
Masonic structure for $8,100 late in April of 1900. "The four
sheer walls of the Temple" stood firm through the storm, no
doubt enhancing the solid reputation of the construction firm.
THE MASONIC TEMPLE, as it was called, stands at the
corner of Seventh Street and Main Street in the middle of the
proposed Historic District of Georgetown. The downstairs is
occupied by Atkin Furniture Company, which has been there since
1925, but the upstairs has always been reserved for the Masonic
Lodge. The meeting and other rooms are approached by a rather
elegant, wide stairway, with handsome light fixtures of the
period on each side of the stairs.
Prior to 1900, the Lodge had a two story wooden building
on the same lot, used the upper story for meetings, and rented
the first floor to the post office. When the Masons decided to
erect the new building, they sold the frame one to the Knights
of Pythias Lodge who moved the old frame structure to a location
south of the present post office on East 8th Street, and the
postal business was moved with it while the Masonic building was
As construction progressed on the fine old building and
the hurricane winds of September 1900 reached inland from the
Galveston storm, Belford temporarily braced the free standing
walls. The cornerstone lad been donated by Judge George W.
Glasscock (son of the pioneer who gave land to Williamson County
in return for selecting Georgetown as the county seat and naming
the town in his honor). Masonic ceremonies for laying the
cornerstone were held July 6, 1900, and the building was
completed December 8, the same year.
THE POST OFFICE was promptly moved into the new building,
occupying the smaller section on the northeast end,, which had
its own separate entrance on the north adjacent to the doors
leading up the stairs to the Masonic rooms. The post office
remained here until 1912, when it moved to the Robertson
Building on the north side of the Square, where Gold's and,
until recently, Henderson's, were situated. Later, sometime in
the 1920s, the office moved into the Miles Brothers building,
then in 1932, into their new Federal Post Office Building, still
The other early occupant of the Temple was a drug store,
first owned and operated by George Atkinson, later sold to. J.
W. Long Druggist, who remained there until in 1925 when S. T.
Atkin Furniture acquired the lease for the first floor.
J. Thatcher Atkin, son
of Mr. and Mrs. S. T: Atkin, recalls that Mr. Long installed a
soda fountain in his store, rectangular in shape, in the front
(west end) of his store. This was one of the early cold drink
fountains in town. A hall or passageway between the drug store
and post office space was closed off, but after the post office
left the building, the hall was opened and now leads from Mr.
Atkin's main showroom to a storage area in the rear.
SAN GABRIEL MASONIC LODGE found sufficient space in the
building to rent offices at different times to three doctors.
The first of these was Dr. Henschen, who had his office on the
balcony of the drug store's upstairs — a balcony still in use.
T. ATKIN, an inventor who patented a special kind of Flue and
marketed it with considerable success, in 1925 moved his
furniture business from the area east of the present Public
Library into the Masonic Building first floor. About that time,
his only son, J. Thatcher Atkin, received his degree from
Southwestern University, and Mr. and Mrs. Atkin and young
Thatcher took a trip into west Texas. While at Alpine, Mr. S. T.
Atkin suffered a heart attack and died. Mrs. Atkin, who had
assisted her husband in the business and was familiar with it,'
continued to operate it. Thatcher had accepted a teaching
position in Elgin for the fall, but after his father's death, he
resigned that job and remained in Georgetown to work at the
store with his mother. Thatcher was importuned by Southwestern'
University to take a teaching position in freshman mathematics,
during the mornings, which he accepted, but continued in the
furniture business afternoons in the firm with his mother.
SAN GABRIEL MASONIC LODGE
San Gabriel Masonic Lodge No. 89 of Georgetown was the first
Masonic Lodge to be organized in Williamson County. Eight men
presented a petition to the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1851 asking
that they be permitted to form a Lodge, and on May 10, 1851, the
Grand Maier of the State Lodge signed a dispensation granting
the request. Those singing the petition
and listed as charter members were men from several parts of the
new county: C. C. Arnett, Joseph Rubarth, Samuel Patterson, C.
C. Cook, J. A. Chism, J. T. Cook, James Armstrong, and E. F.
The State Grand Master Andrew Neill appointed John T.
Cook, First Master; James Armstrong, First Senior Warden, and
Edward F. Story, First Junior Warden. Within a few days, on May
22, 151, a group of Master Masons met at Georgetown — J. T. Cox,
E. F. Story, C.C. Arnett, James Roberts, C. C. Cook, Jos.
Rubarth, Sam'l. Mather, A. H: Raines/ or Baines (found written
both ways in early records), and W. H. Cushney. The Lodge
continued under its special dispensation until January 21, 1852,
when proceedings began for chartering San Gabriel Lodge. Charter
was granted on January 23, 1851. At chartering, new officers
were chosen: John T. Cox, First Worshipful Master, and James
Armstrong, E. F. Story, I. K. Branch, N. B. Johnson, Sam Mather,
Jos. Rubarth, and I. R. (? ) Fleming, other officers.
THE "ROCK HOUSE" of the Lodge was mentioned in 1851, and
in the October 18, 1851 minutes, the organization contracted to
build a "Lodge Room" on their rock house. Other names appearing
in the minutes for that year included N. B. Johnson, Fred R.
Hile, Jas. H. Addison, Jas. W. Branch, J. S. Mercer, A. J.
McKay, T. D. Allen, Jas. W. Crop, John W. Flemming, N.
Beardsley, F. F. Miller and W. H. Fishmell. Those present at the
December 1851 meeting were J. T. Cox, D. C. Cowen (sic.), E. F.
Story, T. R. Burch, N. B. Johnson, Jos. Rubarth, Samuel Mather,
Jno. W. Flemming, James Miller, R. Garves (sic.), J.
B. Harrell, Jas. Branch, J. P. Patterson, Jesse Mercer, and C.
C. Cook. (Spelling from minutes is adhered to, although some is
apparently incorrect: i.e., D. C. Cowan is correct.)
Deed Book III, page 121 of Williamson County Deeds records that
on January 29, 1852, Newton B. Johnson, owner of "a certain
stone house" located on the corner of Brushy and Oak streets
(now Austin Avenue and 8th) in the west corner of the block
south of the Square, consented for the. San Gabriel Lodge "to
have erected on the top of the walls of said stone house. . . a
Lodge Room comprising the frame building above the walls of said
stone house" for the sole use of the Lodge for a consideration
On March 27, 1852, Masters Degrees were awarded to W. G.
Hubbard, John Miller, Noah McChristian, John Barton, R. L.
Matthews, and John H. Mathews (sic.). Minutes of about this time
indicate that there was a continuing interest in the gold fever
in California. On March 2, 1852, "Bro. A. Beardsley being on his
way to California, prayed for a demit which was granted him." In
1853, it was noted that dispensation for lodges had been granted
for chapters at Round Rock and Gabriel Mills (Mount Horeb).
In 1857, the Lodge was still meeting upstairs south of the
Square, in the same building mentioned above, and by this time
the lower floor was a saloon-ten pin alley "and had all the
appearances that go with a frontier resort of this character,"
according to an undated clipping from the SUN. That same year,
Colonel W. C. Dalrymple, a Lodge member, was praised in the
minutes for his service in the Texas Rangers, Scouts, the Army
of Sam Houston and battles on the frontier. A street had been
named Dalrymple in his honor, later changed to Forest. Street.
COLONEL DUDLEY H. SNYDER, well-known cattleman, received his
Master Mason degree on January 12, 1858, from the Georgetown
Lodge. On May 29, 1858, the Lodge purchased a lot from Dr. D. F.
Knight on the east side of the Square. They paid $1,000 for this
property and instructed workmen to "take anything necessary from
the present Lodge to the new to make repair or to use therein."
A note was given to Dr. Knight for the balance on the
"building." It is assumed that the Lodge meant to make this
Effects of the Civil War reflected in minutes of that period. A
number of times, special action was asked for and generally
taken to allow members to obtain their Master Mason -degrees
prior to leaving for service in the war, as was the case in late
October of 1861 with Ed H. Von Trees (sic.) who wished his
degree in order "that he might proceed to Kentucky." Meetings
were sprinkled with efforts to rent space or sell the "Old Lodge
Room." In December 1861 the Lodge Room was rented as a public
school for $5 a month, and the Old Room showed a deed of sale to
a Mr. McKaughen. Members voted to lease the lower floor of their
new building for at least $10 per month (October 21, 1865), or
to sell the Lodge building for a practicable amount, and, after
negotiating the sale to subscribe for shares in the Georgetown
Male & Female Academy with the stipulation that a suitable upper
room be provided in the Academy for a Lodge Room (December 16,
1866). A committee later reported that sale of the old building
was not practicable, and instead it was rented for $15.
NOTES OF TRAGEDY entered the minutes of early years. On
December 20, 1862, a resolution of sympathy and respect began,
"Whereas, we have been informed of the death of Bro. James H.
Tankersley, who was killed by the Indians on a date unknown in
July, 1862. . . ." It was announced that George W. Counts,
Steven A. Boyce and C. C. Ake lost their lives in the service
of the Confederate Army, and that Confederate General E. H. Von
Tress (sic.) was killed by lightning. Memorial services were
preached by Bro. J. W. Ledbetter on July 16, 1865.
The Eastern Star, beginning July 16, 1867, was permitted
to occupy the Lodge Room. It was also noted in the minutes of
that year that the building east of the Hall should provide a
secure lot and shed for the horses or horse-drawn vehicles for
the use of Lodge members. This spot eventually developed into
one of Georgetown's busy livery stables.
Housing continued to be a problem, as April 17 and
November 30, 1869, minutes suggest. J. C. S. Morrow, J. R. Peay
and J. J. Stubblefield were appointed to "find what could be
attained for purpose of erecting a building for a Lodge, School
& Church." In May, the same year, Thos. P. Hughes and Sam'l.
Mankins were added to the Lodge-hunting committee. On November
30, the members agreed to rent their "store room" to W. J.
Montgomery "on the best possible terms."
Masons have long participated in the laying of cornerstones of
public buildings, and the erection of Georgetown College in 1870
provided one of those occasions. At their July 4 meeting, the
brothers ordered the purchase of special items needed for the
affair, and decided to invite Mount Horeb (at Gabriel Mills),
Post Oak Island, Salado and Austin lodges to be present. The
solemn ceremonies took place July 16, 1870, on the University
Avenue site of what, in turn, became Georgetown College —"Texas
University" — Southwestern University, then the Preparatory
School for Southwestern after its main campus moved to the east
on the same street, and finally the site of Georgetown High
School (in 1975 to be replaced by a new High north Highway 81).
Officers of San Gabriel Lodge in charge of the 1870 cornerstone
ceremonies were Norton Moses, W. G. Westfall, W. J. Montgomery,
J. E. Walker, J. W. Posey, J. M. Denson and J. J. Stubblefield.
PERHAPS IN CELEBRATION of its twentieth year as a Lodge,
although the reason was not stated, minutes for February 18,
1871, say that at the close of the regular session, the members
repaired to the Alamo Hotel for an "elegant repast prepared for
the occasion." The following month, a committee was asked to
negotiate with E. H. Napier in regard to the Old Lodge, room
rents, etc., the old building being the one south of the Square
on the northwest corner of the block. Napier had operated a
saloon in the building for some time.
From post-Civil War days until almost the end of the century,
the local Masons were periodically looking for better meeting
quarters, and related matters. For instance, a committee was
authorized to rent a suitable Lodge room (December 21, 1872);
another was appointed to sell the old building, but not the lot
(October 18, 1873); the committee reported that the building had
been sold for $300 to "Bro. Albright" (February 21, 1874), but
the purchaser died soon thereafter; on March 6 and 20, 1875,
members discussed building a new Hall, and on June 5, a
committee was designated to consult J. C. S. Morrow about
renting the second floor of his store_( in 1975 Henderson's
Appliance Store at Austin Avenue and Seventh Street) and on July
3, upper floor of the building was rented to them for $10.
Minutes do not indicate for how long. By November 6, 1875, a
new committee —J. C. S. Morrow, F. L. Price and R. H. Montgomery
— were empowered to rent another hall for lodge meetings in
conjunction with the Odd Fellows. Negotiations were completed
January 1, 1876, with D. Love for this joint rental, and in
April, the two lodges worked toward purchasing the cemetery.
ANOTHER COMMITTEE was named January 5, 1877, to work with
I. 0. 0. F. and the Southern Presbyterian Church to consider
ways and means of building a hall. Early the next year, the
Masons sold the "Albright House" to Dr. F. A. Mood for $364.55,
and the following November 2, 1878, contracted for the
construction of a Lodge Room. It was begun by meeting time,
December 21. The job must have been a hasty one, for by May 9,
1881, minutes report that the building needed repairs, including
the installation of columns along the floor which should, in
turn, support a beam running the entire length of the building.
The next year, the building was insured for $1,000 and the lower
story was rented; the members also authorized the purchase of
"spit-boxes" (1. e., spittoons). Whether done in seriousness or
not, the members passed a motion in January 1884 prohibiting
smoking and chewing while the Lodge was "at labor," but the
action was rescinded at a subsequent meeting.
San Gabriel Lodge made plans on February 7, 1885, to
participate in flying the cornerstone of the new state Capitol
THREE LOCAL MEN received their first degree status on April 2,
1887, all three attaining some prominence in local or state
history. Robert A. John became assistant Attorney General of
Texas, having also been County Attorney for Williamson County
and a prominent local lawyer. R. E. Brooks became Judge of the
26th Judicial District, then helped form the Hogg-Swayne
Syndicate, a corporation to develop oil properties at Spindletop.
This syndicate laid the ground work for the Texas Company. The
first meeting of a group planning this company is said to have
been held in the rear of what is now Burkhart's Newsstand. The
third man to receive his first degree was W. Y. Penn, a
Georgetown jeweler and bookseller, later Mayor of Georgetown,
and still later a real estate dealer in San Antonio. The new
Young Ladies' Annex at Southwestern' University was the site of
another Masonic cornerstone ceremony on September 22, 1887. This
Annex was on the site of the present Kuykendall Hall, the
earlier Annex having burned. The San Gabriel Lodge also had
charge of laying a cornerstone on December 8, 1894, for the City
of Georgetown Free School Building, later known as Annie Purl
School, In the center of the Citizens State Bank block. This
building was designed by architect Bert McDonald; contractor was
Francis Fisher, and superintendent of the city schools was F. P.
NEWFANGLED CONVENIENCES were appearing rapidly in Georgetown at
the end of the century, and San Gabriel Lodge was not long in
considering them. A committee was appointed to look into the
installation of electric lights, the fixtures to cost $60.50
(June 9, 1894); at the July meeting, the members voted to pay
$28 for installation of the lights, and also contracted for
obtaining running water from the local Water Company. On
January 12, 1895, the Lodge ordered sewage installed in, the
Between 1895 and 1899, members firmed up their determination to
construct a new hall, sell the old building they occupied, and
rent another meeting place "more comfortable" than the one they
were using until the new structure was finished. They also voted
to secure "another house for the post office," which had rented
the first floor of their building, with the understanding that
the post office would move into the first floor of the new
building when it was finished. On February 10, 1900, the old
building was sold to the Knights of Pythias, who moved it, and
plans were, ordered for a two story structure which would reach
to the alley on the same site. On April 28, 1900, the contract
was let to Belford Lumber Company for $8,100, with B. Walters as
superintendent of construction. The stone temple was to be
completed in five months. When the cornerstone was laid, July 6,
1900, the following were officers of san Gabriel Lodge: S. M.
Strayhorn, Robert A. John, Dan S. Chessher, G.
Foster, P. C. Harty, C.
I. Harris, W. J. Flanagan, M. P. Dutton and W. J. Wayman. As
already detailed, the walls stood hurricane winds in September,
and the building was ready for occupancy by the end of the year.
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY has seen this Lodge lay
cornerstones for the Courthouse on October 6, 1910, and for the
Southwestern University Science Building on June 17, 1916. In
1918, the Lodge supported financially the local Icings Daughters
Sanitarium, Georgetown's first hospital. That same year last
rites were read for D. W. Queen, who died as a result of an a-plosion
on an American ship sunk by a German submarine. As the
controversy about the Ku Klux Klan raged over the nation and in
this county, the San Gabriel Lodge on October 11,1921,
categorically denied any support of that group by the Lodge. The
final note on construction costs of the Temple was-paid on 1
April 11, 1924.
The meeting room contains a fine, invaluable collection of large
photographic portraits of many of the prominent citizens of this
area who were Masons. All are nicely framed and hung on freshly
painted walls, where they form an impressive array of men who
helped build this county. This writer hopes that excessive
light (which fades photographs) can be kept at a minimum on
them, and that they sometime can be given more permanent and
readable identifications so that the chance of irrevocable loss
will be avoided. The collection is certainly a remarkable one.
ITS 123 YEARS,
the following men have served San Gabriel Lodge as Worshipful
Master (the highest local office): J. T. Cox (1852), Sam Mather
(1853), also Grand Master of Texas 1862-63; J. -B. Harrell
(1854); A. J. Strickland (1855), Ed Stephenson (1856), A. S.
Walker (1857), R. Sansom (1858) De Witt C. Booth (1859).
Those serving (including re-elected officers) 1860 until
1900 were Wm. E. Bouchelle, D. C. Booth, Sidney Seymour:. D. C.
Booth, Wm. E. Bouchelle, W. J. Montgomery, T. P. Hughes, G. W.
Leseure (sic.), J. W. Posey, B. E. Chrietzberg, J. C. S. Morrow,
R. H. Montgomery, Dan S. Chessher, Sr., S. W. Strayhorn, J. It.
McCormick, Thomas Irvine, Dan S. Chessher,' Sr., G. W.
Glasscock, W. M. Key, T.B. Cochran, (Grand Master of Texas 1.0
3), George Irvine, S. S Sansom, A. S Y. Penn, R. A. John, G. W.
Foster, W. T. Starnes,
L. F. Chapman, L. B. Walters, and Dan S. Chessher,