HISTORY OF HARMONY LODGE NO 6. A.F. & A.M.

Galveston, Texas - 1840-1997

By CHAS. K. PETITFILS et al

   

High, white and gleaming, Galveston rises on the island named after Count Galvez. Less a city than a symbol, Galveston was established with immortalized ideals… a metropolis of surging human aspiration. From the struggling evolution of a Mexican colony to a modern city, Galveston has always been a dominant power in the State of Texas.

 

Harmony Lodge No. 6, A.F. & A.M. had its beginning when the Galveston population was less than five hundred persons. The Lodge is so connected to the events of importance in the history of Galveston that the story of either would be incomplete without many joined references to each institution.

 

In 1838, a number of Master Masons residing in Galveston presented a petition for dispensation to form a new Lodge to Most Worshipful Grand Master Anson Jones. On June 2nd, 1838, the dispensation was granted to F. M. Gibson, Nicholas Lynch, Amassa Turner, W. Thomas Brannum, Samuel M, Williams, James P. Boylen and Thomas M. Thompson. However, from the Grand Lodge records it was learned that no Lodge was formed nor any action taken on the dispensation at that time. From old records of the city, this delay in organizing a Lodge was evidently due to epidemics of yellow fever, cholera, and other loathsome diseases which the medical profession was not yet able to conquer.

 

On June 5th, 1839, Most Worshipful Grand Master B. T. Archer issued a second dispensation to form a Masonic Lodge at Galveston to be known as Harmony Lodge No.6, A.F. & A.M. Brother George Fisher was authorized by the Grand Master to set the Lodge to work. This occurred on June 6th, 1839 with the following officers duly installed:

 

John H. Walton---------------------------Worshipful Master

W. F. Wilson------------------------------Senior Warden

J. M. Allen---------------------------------Junior Warden

John M. Bowyer---------------------------Treasurer

N. Griffith----------------------------------Secretary

G. F. Lawrence----------------------------Senior Deacon

George W. Fletcher------------------------Junior Deacon

S. E. Jeffers and F. W. Gibson-------------Stewards

 

These and eleven other original members met in what was referred to as the “Court Room,” located in a house belonging to Colonel Rhodes, the United States Consul at Galveston. The house was situated on the north side of Strand (Avenue B) between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets. The records of the Lodge fail to show the names of the original members other than the officers; however, Grand Lodge records show that the following were original members: Moro Phillips, J. Johnson, Amassa Turner, E. A. Rhodes, Henry Gilroy, Samuel May Williams, G. W. Hall, W. P. Herring, A. C. Hinto, James Petty, and J. Matossy.

 

By-Laws for the Lodge were immediately adopted, and with $150.00 loaned by Brother Samuel May Williams, preparation was made to furnish equipment and paraphernalia for a Lodge room in the Matossy House, which formerly stood on the corner of 24th and Market St. Jewels were imported from England by Brother Tremayne.

 

The first initiation took place on August 5th, 1839, when John M. Dor, P. J. Menard and Asa G. Sweet received the first degree. Brothers Dor and Menard were the first to receive the Masters Degree, conferred on August 28th, 1839 in the new Lodge. The Lodge appeared to be firmly established when it was adjourned indefinitely, “for certain cogent reasons.” From other records it is found that an epidemic of a malignant disease was prevalent at that time, likely the reason for the adjournment.

 

The history of Harmony Lodge would not be complete without mentioning the splendid work of Brother Samuel May Williams. Brother Williams was the moving spirit in all branches of Galveston Masonry at that time; he was the principal person interested in the organization of Harmony Lodge No. 6, and is regarded as the “father” of the Lodge. Brother Williams secured and brought the records and annual reports up to date and presented them to the Grand Lodge meeting in January, 1840 when the Lodge was chartered.

 

The present rule of the Grand Lodge (that a Grand Master must have served as Master of his subordinate Lodge), must not have been in effect… or, if in effect, the rule may have been suspended at that time, because Samuel May Williams never served as Master of Harmony Lodge No. 6. He was appointed Junior Warden pro tem, in December, 1839, and in June, 1840, was elected Grand Master.

 

Harmony Lodge No. 6 approved a petition to form a separate Lodge for German immigrant inhabitants of Galveston in 1848. This Lodge was named Teutonia No. 47, which had an active existence from 1848 to 1855. Harmony Lodge records indicate that inter-Lodge visits were made frequently in spite of the hardship of limited communication and transportation. A journey was made to Holland Lodge No. 1 in Houston by members of Harmony and Teutonia Lodges. The trip was made by boat, requiring three days travel. Teutonia Lodge later demised with the members transferred into Harmony Lodge No. 6.

 

The years 1853 to 1858 were dark in the history of the Lodge. Another serious epidemic was raging in the area, and the Lodge activities were suspended for months at a time. Little Masonic work was undertaken with the exception of relief to the distressed. Two funerals of note were held: Anson Jones, Past Grand Master and late President of the Republic of Texas, and Samuel May Williams, the “father” of Harmony Lodge. The years of the War Between the States brought loss of membership, and the following social confusion required years to overcome.

 

Harmony Lodge records from 1859 to 1867 have been lost, presumably in the summer of 1866 when the Lodge room was completely destroyed by fire. The following records of San Felipe de Austin Chapter No. 1, Royal Arch Masons of Galveston, reflect an incident of true Masonic spirit in helping to rebuild.

 

During the War Between The States, Philip C. Tucker Jr. was eulogized for his loyalty to duty in remaining at his post as Master of Harmony Lodge when he conducted the Masonic burial service of Brother S. B. Hurlburt. Brother Hurlburt was killed in the evacuation of the City of Galveston during an attack on the city by the Federal Naval Forces. On October 6th, 1862, Brother Hurlburt’s Masonic funeral service was held under most dangerous wartime circumstances with Brother Tucker remaining until the service was completed. After the service, Brother Tucker left for his post in Houston. Further Masonic work of Harmony Lodge then ceased for a time.

 

“When the Confederate forces decided to retake Galveston from the Federal forces, a fierce battle took place, both on land and on water. During the battle a Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy, in charge of the Gunboat “Harriet Lane,” and a Brother Mason in the States, was killed. A flag of truce was sent ashore, and Confederate leaders were informed of the dying request of Brother A. H. Wainright, Lieutenant Commander, who was killed, that he be buried with Masonic honors. The Confederate General declared a truce for twenty-four hours in order that Brother Wainright’s last request might be carried out. Orders were issued that “leaders of Federal forces should issue orders that all Masons who were members of the Federal forces be allowed to come ashore to participate in the burial, with only their promise given to their (Federal) Commander that they would not pry into military secrets.” The Brethren gathered in Harmony Lodge hall on January 1st, 1863, with Brother Philip C. Tucker Jr. acting in the official position of Master.

 

It is interesting to note that Brother Tucker immediately granted the request of the Federal Commander despite the contumely heaped upon him by an excited populace. It appears that while Brother Tucker acted as Master, all of the other stations were filled by members of the Federal forces. Brother Wainright was buried with full Masonic honors in Harmony Lodge’s Cemetery plot in the city. This act of Brother Tucker is a shining example of Masonic obligations, wherein war, rebellion and bloodshed do not absolve a Mason from his Masonic obligations; that bonds and pledges of the faithful are not broken when members differ in opinions, faith, or errors, and that these virtues transcend all national boundary lines.

 

The laying of the cornerstone of St. Johns Methodist Church by the Grand Lodge took place in 1869 in which Harmony Lodge assisted. This Church was located on the southwest corner of 25th and Avenue J, and was destroyed during the 1900 storm. On June 9th, 1870, Harmony Lodge assisted the Grand Lodge in laying the cornerstone of the Jewish Synagogue. On July 7th, 1877, the Lodge participated in the cornerstone ceremony of the Galveston Cotton Exchange, was rebuilt in 1940. Further cornerstone ceremonies were that of the Rosenberg school on June 30th, 1888; the Protestant Orphans Home on October 20th, 1894; and the Y.M.C.A. building at the southwest corner of Avenue O on March 10th, 1896. and the Rosenberg Library on October 18th, 1902.

 

On May 11th, 1965 the cornerstone of Weiss Elementary School was laid and the same day the old Shrine Burns Hospital cornerstone was also laid. On October 26th, 1991 a representation of the Grand Lodge of Texas was called to order by Past Grand Master George R. Scott and the cornerstone was laid for the new Shrine Burns Hospital at 815 Market Street in Galveston.

 

The years of the early Eighteen-nineties were of low ebb. Masonic initiations in Harmony Lodge were few, attendance at the meetings was small, and general lethargy seemed to prevail. However, in 1896, younger men, filled with the enthusiasm of youth, became interested in the affairs of the Lodge and there was renewed interest and great activity.

 

In September, 1900, the raging waters of the Gulf of Mexico wrought havoc in the city and members of the Fraternity suffered greatly. Homes were destroyed, many were drowned, food was scarce and great confusion prevailed. The day following the storm a relief committee was formed by several Masonic Bodies of Galveston, and a few days later food was being distributed to the hungry, distressed, weak and fallen. We could write at length about the work and self-sacrifice of the Brethren, but it would only bring a reminder of the grief we wish to forget.

 

Having suffered by reason of storms, the Brethren felt kindly toward other Brethren in similar circumstances and made liberal donations to the San Francisco earthquake sufferers, the Youngstown flood victims, the Corpus Christi storm sufferers, and the Texas City disaster victims, as well as to numerous other worthy and needy enterprises.

 

In response to a call made by Grand Master Andrew L. Randell on February 13th, 1922 for donations for new buildings at the Masonic Home and school at Fort Worth, the amount raised was far beyond the goal set by the Grand Master.

 

Harmony Lodge No. 6 has furnished six Grand Masters for the Grand Lodge of Texas; six Grand High Priests for the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas; one Grand Commander for the Grand Commandery Knight Templars of Texas; and one Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.

 

The land for a Masonic Temple was purchased in 1848, and in 1850 steps were taken to erect the building. After many trials and tribulations, the cornerstone was laid in 1856 by Grand Master E. B. Nichols, a member of Harmony Lodge, at which time the Grand Lodge of Texas met in annual session in Galveston. The Temple building itself was never completed. During the next twenty-six years many abortive attempts at construction were made.

 

In 1882, another movement was started, which was successful, and the cornerstone of that Temple was laid the same year by Deputy Grand Master W. H. Nicholas, a member of Harmony Lodge. The stone used was the same one that was used in 1856, and just here the coincidence may be mentioned that the W. H. Nicholas who, as Deputy Grand Master of Texas, presided as acting Grand Master at the placing of the cornerstone in the building, was a son of the Grand Master who in 1856 presided in the capacity of Grand Master at the cornerstone ceremony.

 

The Masonic Temple was situated at the southeast corner of 21st and Post Office Streets. Its design was based on the Italian Gothic style, modernized to meet the requirements and climatic needs of the Galveston locality. The leading features of the architecture style were its plaster buttresses and Gothic detail engrafted on classic forms of the Italian renaissance, with the distinctive details of each style modified in a harmonious manner to blend the pleasing features of each. A preponderance of Gothic outlines was maintained in the arched construction, the tracery of the openings, and other salient features of this distinctively Northern European style.

 

This building was very impressive. Its heavy walls and massive construction with its richness of details in moulding and capitals gave to the beholder an impression of attachment, warmth of association with a past, and the vision of a future with permanence.

 

The cost of the structure was $57,000.00, and the shares, with few exceptions, are owned by the several Masonic Bodies in Galveston and are governed by a Board of Directors composed of representatives of these Bodies.

 

This building was destroyed by fire between the hours of 11:00 PM Monday, January 12th, and 4:30 AM, January l3th, 1942: the last Masonic meeting was held on that evening, during which the Entered Apprentice and the Fellowcraft Degrees were conferred.

 

On Tuesday, January 30th, 1940, the Lodge celebrated its Centennial in the Scottish Rite Temple.

 

Meetings were held in the Scottish Rite Temple, 2128 Avenue F, from Monday, January 19, 1942, which was a Stated Meeting, to and including a Called Meeting held on Monday, February 22, 1954.

 

The Lodge removed to the Masonic Temple buildings on the northeast corner of Avenue I and 22nd Street on Thursday, February 25th, 1954. These buildings, formerly the Temple B’Nai Israel Jewish synagogue together with the adjoining Cohen Community House, were purchased and remodeled by the Masonic Temple Association. The Association is composed of representatives from Harmony Lodge No.6 and Tucker Lodge No. 297, A. F. & A. M.; San Felipe de Austin Chapter No. 1, R.A. M., Galveston Council No. 16, R. & S. M., and San Felipe de Austin Commandery No. 1, K. T.

 

The price of the buildings and land totaled $80,000.00. The remodeling of the Cohen Community House cost approximately $103,000.00, the second story of which was used as a Lodge Room for the Blue Lodges. The first floor consisted of a number of rooms which were rented as office space.

 

The Temple building was remodeled at a cost of approximately $60,000.00. The second floor was used as a Lodge Room for Chapter, Council and Commandery. The first floor was as a banquet hall, where the Eastern Star Chapters, the Beauceant and the Rainbow Girls held their meetings. The costs were paid by the different Bodies without any assessment of the members. The Lodge Room floor for the Blue Lodges was originally covered with a black and white pavement having the Winding Stairway therein, but later was covered with a blue carpet.

 

On Saturday October 6th, 1990 the Lodge celebrated the 150th Anniversary in the Lodge Room followed by a banquet held at the Galvez Hotel which honored M:. W:. Ancil Derwood Hanna, Grand Master who attended the banquet.

 

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Masonic Temple building was in poor condition. A considerable amount was spent on the A/C system and building repairs. The offices on the first floor were not in good condition and had few renters. The stairway between the two buildings was leaking and there were problems in the building where the Eastern Star, York Rite, and Commandery met. A committee was formed to look into how much money it would take to get the two buildings into good condition.

 

Brother Louis Oliver, an architect and member of Harmony Lodge, was asked to render a structural and cost analysis to consider remodeling the first floor where the offices were located. After many meetings and much discussion, it was decided that, given the number of members attending the meetings, it would be financially harmful to the Temple Association and to all of the Masonic Bodies involved to attempt making the required repairs.

 

All the Masonic Bodies were notified of the results of Brother Oliver’s analysis, and at a stated meeting of Harmony Lodge held on June 9, 1996, it was decided to sell both buildings. At a stated meeting held on October 13, 1997, a vote was taken and a majority of the members present decided that the Lodge would move back to Scottish Rite Building at 2128 Church St.

 

On November 10, 1997, the Lodge held its first meeting at the Scottish Rite Building. The two buildings owned by the Masonic Temple Association were separated and sold individually. The monies were distributed among the stockholders of the Masonic Temple Association according to their shares.

 

On November11, 2000, the Lodge purchased Brother Robert “Bob” Lyon’s 1921 Past Master’s Jewel from Brother C.Q. Ammann’s widow. Brother Ammann had worn the Jewel for many years while he served the Lodge. He also served as President of the Masonic Temple Association and the Chairman of the Valley of Galveston for the Scottish Rite. The jewel was purchased to be worn by each Secretary of the Lodge if he is a Past Master, having his name added to the Jewel on a bar.

 

While facing the world with a united front of over 200 members, we feel confident that the Lodge will continue to enjoy the satisfaction of an intelligent, active and sincere membership. We are conscious of the legacy given us by the founders of the Lodge, an institution with a principle that has as its foundation a belief in the Great Architect of the Universe and its walls raised on the Brotherhood of Man.

 

As we face the second century of our existence as an important unit among the constituent Lodges that compose the Grand Lodge of Texas, we do so with a firm determination to apply the principles of the Ancient Craft-----liberty, equality and fraternity--- among all men of all creeds and in every country of the world.

 

Resting on this everlasting truth, as on a rock, Harmony Lodge No. 6 has suffered the devastations of disease, the privations of war, the fury and force of the elements and the discomforts of economic depressions yet, it continues to grow.

 

As long as time shall last, we, the membership, pledge ourselves to rededicate our best efforts to perpetuate this organized society of men, symbolically applying the principles of Operative Masonry and architecture to the science and art of character-building and Brotherhood.

Harmony Lodge No. 6 gratefully acknowledges the editorial contribution of Bro. Vincent Zubras, Jr., of Edwin J. Kiest Lodge No. 1310 in Dallas, to the above narrative.

Making Good Men Better Since Time Immemorial!

Our History

Harmony Lodge No. 6 is one of Texas' oldest Masonic Lodges. The histories of Texas and Galveston Island can not be told without the history of our Lodge.

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