History of East Trinity Lodge

History of East Trinity Lodge No. 157, A.F.& A. M.

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This article is taken from the Rockwall County History.  Copyright 1984, Printed by Taylor Publishing Company for the Rockwall Historical Foundation.  Page 59 and 60; Titled: East Trinity Lodge No. 157 A.F. & A.M.  This article has been edited for the readers convenience.

On July 26, 1854, while the “rock wall” area was still a part of Northwestern Kaufman County, East Trinity Lodge No. 157, A.F. & A.M. was set to work under dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Texas.  Two of the ten petitioners for the creation of East Trinity Lodge were Sterling R. Barnes and John O. Heath, the first residents to obtain land grants (in 1848) in what is now Rockwall County.  Barnes and Heath both had located their property improvements along the route of the Central National Road of the Republic of Texas, and on occasion were hospitable to travelers on that thoroughfare.  For their generation and area, both were moderately wealthy with a dozen years of their opening the land for settlement.

The full list of petitioners for the dispensation included Sterling R. Barns, E.P. Chisholm, Isham Chisholm, William K. Camp, J. Davis, Miles Graves, John O. Heath, M.N. Matthews, James Smith and James Wilson.

Not only were Barnes and Heath leading citizens of the area, but some of the others were also quite influential.  For example, the petitioner E.P. Chisholm is probably identifiable as a 47 year old Methodist Minister listed in the census as “E. Chisholm”, a native of Tennessee who had been in Texas since the early 1840’s and owned $11,670 worth of personal property as well as $5,700 worth of real estate.  The other “Chisum” in the Rock Wall Community in 1860 was probably the Isum or Isham Chisholm, farmer, who had entered his name also on the 1854 petition for chartering of the Lodge.  “I. Chisum” of the 1860 census of the Rock Wall Community was a fourth one.  A native of Mississippi, had a thirty six year old wife named Charlotte and a family that included six sons and two daughters; the children ranging in ages from eighteen years down to four months.

M.N. Matthews a physician, Church of Christ Minister, Republic of Texas Congressman and State Representative who deployed himself and his family about over much of Northeast Texas as he grazed his cattle on unclaimed lands for several decades, beginning in the 1830’s.  Doctor Mansell W. Matthews was a staunch member of the Masonic Lodge at Clarksville, Texas, and probably influenced his younger relatives to enter the work as they reached adulthood.

In 1854, when the petition was filed, the Rock Wall Neighborhood (modern spelling did not yet prevail) had one of the denser populations to be found in Kaufman County. where other recognized communities were the town of Kaufman, the Village of Turner’s Point, and the settlement pf Praiville.  Large in area, though it was in 1854 Kaufman County, had only about 1,000 people, and was to grow to 3,938 during the decade of establishment of the Lodge.  Socially, the time was ripe for the creation of such cultural institutions as the Lodge because there was need for it’s services.

Surviving records do not indicate where East Trinity Lodge held it’s first meeting, and there are differing opinions on this subject.  The best available source on information is contained in articles written in 1906 By Judge E. C. Heath.  These articles were printed,  and reprinted from time to time, in Rockwall’s weekly newspaper, The Rockwall Success. In his history of Rockwall County, by O. L. Steger, Sr., Mr. Steger printed excerpts from Judge Heath’s articles, that were reprinted in the Success in 1951.

Judge Heath stated that on December 12, 1853, John Butler donated two acres of land for a schoolhouse, conveying it to S. F. Boydston, Solomon Fletcher and Watson S. Bowles, Trustees for Union Schoolhouse.  The schoolhouse was located in the East part of Rockwall, near where in later years, Gus Hartman had his shop.  According to Judge Heath, the building was about sixteen by twenty feet, being built of native timber from East Fork Bottom and covered and sided with boards from the same area.  Judge Heath stated that the Masonic Lodge first held it’s meetings in this old schoolhouse until they built their new hall.  The Masons kept their regalia in one corner of the schoolhouse behind a curtain, stated Judge Heath.  John Butler was the first teacher.  John Butler was also to become a four-time Worshipful Master of East Trinity Lodge.

In addition, Judge Heath wrote that on December 15, 1859, C. L. Jones, an Uncle, conveyed to the Masonic Lodge at Rockwall, lot two and three in Block “S”.  A Lodge Hall was erected in these lots, with the lower room of the two-story building being used as a schoolroom, and the top floor used by the Masons.  According to Judge Heath, the laying of the cornerstone of the building brought a large crowd to town.  He stated that the building was torn down in 1878.  John Butler was also a teacher at this school.  Judge Heath wrote, “The last school I ever attended was in this schoolroom under the old Masonic Hall.”

Some years later, another two-story building was erected at this same location, and East Trinity owned and continued to use the upper story at least from 1885 until 1955 when it was sold.  The Lodge then purchased the adjacent one story building, which is still it’s present meeting place.

East Trinity Lodge obtained it’s charter on January 18, 1855.  The committee on work and returns had reported on January 17, to the Grand Lodge that:

“East Trinity Lodge, U. D. work correct.  Returns corrected.  We recommend that a Charter be issued on payment of fees.”

In 1856, The Grand Lodge of Texas found East Trinity Lodge’s returns were “correct in every particular.” However, the committee on by-laws recommended some amendments to the by-laws of the Lodge.  In 1857. the returns were again found correct.

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas, Volumes I and II, has in its appendix some confirmed statistics of this Lodge from it earliest years.  In 1857, when it had been chartered for only two years, it had twenty-two members, had conferred nine degrees, and had made only one rejection and three suspensions.

In 1857, the Brothers Camp, Davis, Heath, Matthews an Smith were no longer members of this Lodge.  Perhaps some had moved to other communities in the manner of the average pioneer who seemed to have tried several localities before settling in a permanent home.  Some however, were still in the area.  In this year, East Trinity Lodge held its stated meeting at Rock Wall on the first Saturday in each month.  It’s officers were C. K. Vance – Worshipful Master, J. Wilson – Senior Warden, J. U. Vance – Junior Warden, J. A. Heath – Treasurer, Q. P. Barnett – Secretary, A. G. Vance – Senior Deacon, J. H. B. Jones – Junior Deacon, D. J. Anderson – Tyler.  The Past Master was James Wilson.  Master Masons included:  J. S. M. Baker, S. R. Barnes, S. Carrington, E. P. Chisholm, I. Chisum, M. Graves, W. S. Monroe, F. J. Vance, T. U. Wade and H. Williams.  Fellowcraft, M. B. Jones and Entered Apprentices A. A. Love and A. Brown.

John O. Heath had an interest in a mercantile store in Rock Wall and still lived at Willow Springs in the Rock Wall vicinity, but for some reason, perhaps an oversight, was not listed amount the 1857 members of East Trinity Lodge.  Perhaps he was merely an unaffiliated Mason at the time.  He and his family seem to have continued the ideals of Masonry and participated in the work in later generations.

Heath’s farm was near Willow Springs.  The Post Office was in J. O. Heath’s home and was called “Black Hill.”  In later years, a son of John O. Heath, E. C. Heath, who became County Judge of Rockwall County, said they had few neighbors and then proceeded to name about 200.  Years later, there was an E. C. Heath Masonic Lodge, affirming the constance of the Heaths to Masonic Ideals.  In 1968, the E. C. Heath Lodge No. 1149 merged with East Trinity Lodge No. 157.

Sterling R. Barnes, the first Junior Warden of the Lodge, move to Rock Wall area in 1844, from Holley Spring, Mississippi.  He carried with him a demit from Holley Springs Lodge No. 35 and that demit continues to hang above the station of the Junior Warden.  Sterling R. Barnes built the first iron bridge across the East Fork of the Trinity River.  Barnes charged a toll to cross the bridge:  a footman – 5 cents, man and horse – 10 cents, a horse and buggy – 25 cents, a horse and empty wagon – 30 cents, and a horse and full wagon – 40 cents.  The road that crossed the bridge became known as Barnes Bridge Road.  This road is now called Terry Lane (after another Long time Family).  The road no longer continues into Dallas County due to Lake Ray Hubbard.  That section of the road across the lake in Dallas County continues to be called Barnes Bridge Road.