Historical Sketch of
Royal Arch Masonry in Texas
By Hon. George Lopas Jr., Past Grand Secretary
Of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas
Originally published in the Transactions of the GRAC of Texas
From its organization in 1850 to 1890 Inclusive
Volume I 1850 to 1872, pp3-8
The Grand Chapter of the Republic of Texas was formed by a convention of Royal Arch Masons, delegates from San Felipe de Austin Chapter, of Galveston, Cyrus Chapter, of Matagorda, Lone Star Chapter, of Austin, and Rising Star Chapter of San Augustine. The Convention met in the city of Austin on the 14th day of December 1841, and the delegate from San Felipe de Austin Chapter was the President of the Convention and assisted in drafting the constitution. When the Grand Chapter was organized, the delegate from San Felipe de Austin declined to sign the constitution and withdrew from the convention. The Constitution was adopted and ratified on the 21st day of December 1841. It is signed by B. Gillespie, Grand High Priest and attested by H.W. Raglin, Grand Secretary. Who the other officers were I have been unable to learn as the original records and papers have been lost, and if the proceedings were ever printed I have been unable to obtain a copy. I conclude the Grand Chapter did not meet in 1842, as the Grand Lodge, by a change in its time of meeting from December to January, did not meet in that year. I have never seen any proceedings for the year 1843 and am of the opinion that they were never printed, as I have written to every one from whom I thought it possible to secure a copy, but without success. That the Grand Chapter met in 1843, I have no doubt, as there is no mention of their failure to meet in the proceedings of 1844.
The proceedings of 1844, 1845, 1846, 1847, and 1849, as well as the Constitution adopted at Austin in 1841, were printed and given verbatim in the reprint.
The Grand Chapter met in 1848 but the proceedings were never printed. I have inserted in the reprint a list of officers for that year which I found on the cover of the printed proceedings of the Grand Lodge for 1848.
When, "for the sake of peace and harmony among the Craft," the Grand Chapter of the Republic of Texas dissolved, there were under its allegiance nine Chapters, viz:
Cyrus, No.1, at Matagorda;
Lonestar, No.3, at Austin;
Rising Star, No.4, at San Augustine;
Washington, No.5, at Washington;
DeWitt Clinton, No.6, at Clarksville;
Jerusalem, No.7, at Alta. Mira (Fanthorpís);
Houston, No. 8, at Houston;
Brenham No.12, at Brenham;
and Trinity, No. 13, at Crockett.
I am unable in any way to account for Nos. 2, 9, 10, and 11, and have been unable to learn of either their names, or location.
It is regretted that so little is known of the organization and early history of these Chapters. The following is all I have been able to collect of their history:
On December 9th, 1835 a Charter was granted by the General Grand Chapter of the United States for a Chapter to be located at San Felipe de Austin, in Texas, then a province of Mexico, to be known by the name of San Felipe de Austin Royal Arch Chapter No.1 of Texas, issued to Companion Samuel M. Williams, as High Priest, and Companion James C. Miller, as King, with authority for them to fill up the offices. And the Deputy Grand High Priest of New York was authorized to install into the office of High Priest of said Chapter, Companion Samuel M. Williams.
In consequence of unforeseen events, the Chapter was never opened at San Felipe de Austin, the place designated in their charter for its location. It was however opened at Galveston on June 2, 1840, four and a half years later. Without any authority from the General Grand Chapter. This was reported to the General Grand Chapter at its session in 1844, and on September 12, 1844, the following resolution was adopted by the General Grand Chapter:
Resolved, that the removal of said Chapter from San Felipe de Austin to Galveston be approved and sanctioned by this General Grand Chapter.
Some time in 1837 a Chapter was organized in Matagorda by Dugal McFarlane, a Scotch Mason, and ten or twelve other Companions, styled Cyrus Chapter, without any warrant or Charter. Afterwards, entertaining doubts of the legality of its formation, 1n 1841, they petitioned the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas for a Dispensation to open a Chapter. This petition was granted and Dispensation was granted to them on December 10, 1841. At the same time Dispensations were granted to Rising Star Chapter, at San Augustine, and Lone Star Chapter, at Austin. (See Ruthvenís reprint, Grand Lodge of Texas page 101.) The Dispensation to Lone Star Chapter is given in the printed proceedings, Grand Chapter of the Republic of Texas, 1846, and is no doubt substantially the same as the others.
After the organization of the Grand Chapter as stated above, on December 23, 1841, the addressed the following memorial to the Grand Lodge:
Your memoralist, in accordance with a resolution adopted by the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas of the Republic of Texas, now makes known to your worshipful body that several Chapters of Royal Arch Masons in Texas have deemed it expedient to meet in Convention, and form a Grand Royal Chapter for the government and control of the several Chapters already in existence, and such as hereafter be constituted and formed in the Republic of Texas. We fell assured that your worshipful body will give us hearty welcome and greeting. We are servitors in the same temple whose votaries are engaged in spreading and inculcating the doctrines of brotherly love, friendship, and virtue. Our Grand Secretary will soon furnish your worshipful body with a copy of our Constitution.
Before the formation of our Grand Royal Arch Chapter, each Subordinate Chapter being independent of any controlling head, and fearing that regularity and harmony could not prevail, and that6 the great objects of our institution for the want of concert be lost, we petitioned your worshipful body, as the great Masonic head in the Republic of Texas, to take the Subordinate Chapter within the pail of your resolution until a Grand Royal Arch Chapter for the Republic of Texas could be formed. Such as one being now duly organized agreeably to the usages of the Order, the necessity of the case now passed away.
The Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Republic of Texas respectfully ask of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas to relinquish control of the Royal Arch Chapters and Royal Arch Masons in the Republic of Texas upon the surrender of the Dispensations heretofore granted by your worshipful body.
With greeting of brotherly love, we shall ever remain, etc...
(See Ruthvenís Reprint, Grand Lodge of Texas, Vol. 1, page 112.)
On the memorial being read, the following preamble and resolution were unanimously adopted:
Whereas, we have received official information that there has been constituted and formed a Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Republic of Texas for the government of the Chapters of Royal Arch Masons in this Republic; be it therefore known and:
Resolved, by this Grand Lodge that we surrender all jurisdiction over said Chapters and Royal Arch Masons to the said Grand Royal Arch Chapter, they now being the appropriate head and should of right control and govern the same. (See Ruthvenís Reprint, Grand Lodge of Texas, Vol. 1,page 112.)
Thus it appears the irregularities in the early years of those Chapters- that of San Felipe de Austin in holding their Charter for more than four years without organizing and finally opening in Galveston without authority, and of the others in meeting without any warrant or Charter, were respectively cured by the action of the General Grand Chapter of the United States, on the one hand, and the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas on the other, the one claiming authority over its creation, the other exercising its inherent prerogative action in granting Dispensations.
But the General Grand Chapter did not regard the formation of the Grand Chapter of the Republic of Texas as legal, not having asked permission from that body, and determined to suppress it. And after failure to accomplish their purpose by milder means, in 1837 they passed a resolution forbidding Royal Arch Masons under that jurisdiction from holding Masonic intercourse with the Grand Chapter of the Republic of Texas, its subordinates, and those acknowledging its authority and ordered the General Grand Secretary to publish the same to the world in some newspaper in Texas. That was done, and as a result the Grand Chapter, in 1849, adopted the report and resolutions by which they ceased to exist and passed into history.
Of the nine Chapters under the jurisdiction of the Grand Chapter of the Republic of Texas at the time the General Grand Chapter passed its resolution in 1847, forbidding Masonic intercourse with Texas Royal Arch Masons, the following petitioned the General Grand Chapter through its officers, for its permission to open Chapters in Texas, and Dispensations were granted on the dates given:
Washington Chapter, No. 2, May 5, 1848.
Jerusalem Chapter, No. 3, March 10, 1849.
Trinity Chapter, No. 4, March 14, 1849.
Brenham Chapter, No. 5, April 14, 1849.
Lone Star Chapter, No. 6, April 14, 1849.
San Jacinto Chapter, No. 7, January 22, 1850.
Brazos Chapter, No. 8, 1850.
Rising Star Chapter, No. 9, February 2, 1850.
Charters were granted by the General Grand Chapter at its triennial in Boston, in 1850, as follows:
Washington Chapter, No. 2, September 13, 1850.
Brenham Chapter, No. 5, September 12, 1850.
Lone Star Chapter, No. 6, September 12, 1850.
Brazos Chapter, No. 8, September 13, 1850.
Rising Star Chapter, No. 9, September 14, 1850.
Jerusalem Chapter, No. 3, Trinity Chapter, No. 4, and San Jacinto Chapter, No. 7, were continued under Dispensation by the General Grand Chapter with authority to surrender them and take out Charters form the Grand Chapter of Texas if one be organized previous to the next meeting of the General Grand Chapter.
At the formation of the Grand Chapter of Texas in the city of Galveston, on December 30, 1850, the following Chapters were represented: San Felipe de Austin, No. 1, (Which had previously been charted by the General Grand Chapter on December 9, 1935); Washington No. 2; Brenham, No. 5 and Brazos, No. 8.
Of the Chapter organized by authority of the General Grand Chapter as stated above, all but San Felipe de Austin, No.1, surrendered their authority from the General Grand Chapter to the Grand Chapter of Texas and received their Charters dated June 25, 1851, and signed by the grand officers elected at the Second Annual Convocation in the town of Huntsville, on June 24, 1851.
San Felipe de Austin, No. 1 never received a Charter from the Grand Chapter of Texas until June 22, 1860, as is shown by reference to report of Committee on Petitions and Resolutions, No. 1, on pages 28 and 30, P.P. 1860 pages 335 and 336, reprint. I have seen that Charter. It is dated December 30, 1850 and the names of the Grand Officers elected at the first Convocation of Grand Chapter at Galveston, December 30, 1850 are signed to it. On the margin is a certificate signed by the Grand High Priest, and attested by the Grand Secretary, setting forth in substance, that said Charter was issued in accordance with said resolution, No. 1, above referred to.
Many of the Companions who belonged to Chapters under the Grand Chapter of the Republic of Texas, believing the action of the General Grand Chapter, in regard to Royal Arch Masonry in Texas to be unwarranted and unjust, refused to be "healed" under the new organization and were thereby debarred from enjoying the privileges for which they had worked so earnestly and long. Others accepted the situation until such time as they should be able to sever an alliance that was unsought and always distasteful.
The time came in 1861, when on the 17th day of June, the Grand Chapter accepted the following resolution:
Resolved, That all connections between this Grand Chapter and the General Grand Chapter of the United States is dissolved and forever annihilated, by the separation of our state from that government.
From That day to the present the Grand Chapter of Texas has remained an independent and sovereign body, untrammeled by any alliances and in peace and harmony with the Capitular world, practicing its beautiful Ritual and disseminating the glorious principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
Several attempts have been made by the General Grand Chapter to induce this Grand Chapter to again become a constituent of that body, and at the Annual Convocation in 1892, the Grand Chapter was honored by the presence of a committee from the General Grand Chapter having the same object.
In 1893 the Grand Chapter appointed a committee to visit the General Grand Chapter at its triennial in 1894, "for the purpose of ascertaining upon what terms and under what conditions, the General Grand Chapter will receive the Grand Chapter of Texas; provided, said Grand Chapter should decide to accept the invitation to unite itself with said General Grand Chapter."
Said committee visited the General Grand Chapter in obedience to their instructions and presented their credentials which were received and referred to a select committee, who in their report, which was adopted, say: "... and that the General Grand Chapter will greet the Grand Chapter of Texas with the right hand of fellowship and the warm heart of perfect love, whenever she shall seek admission to membership in the General Grand Chapter, which recocnizes her now, as always heretofore, as a sovereign Grand Body, and her Companions as Brethren justly entitled to and deserving of fullest Masonic fellowship."
At the Annual Convocation of the Grand Chapter in 1894 the aforesaid committee reported the result of their visit to the General Grand Chapter, when the following resolutions were read and adopted:
Resolved, That the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas returns its thanks to the General Grand Chapter of the United States for its courtesy to the committee of this Grand Chapter, which visited that body in Topeka in August last.
Resolved, That while entertaining the highest respect and most cordial brotherly feeling for Royal Arch Masons who are members of the General Grand Chapter of the United States, as well as, for those Grand Chapters which acknowledge its jurisdiction and supremacy, the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas deems it inexpedient to surrender its own sovereignty as an independent Masonic body, and believes that the true interests of Capitular Masonry will be best promoted by adhering to the action it has already taken toward the General Grand Chapter of the United States.
George Lopas Jr.,
Houston, Texas July 1st, 1897