In March 1835, Dr. Anson Jones, together with John H. Wharton, Asa Brigham, James A.E. Phelps, Alexander Russell, and J.P. Caldwell, met in a little grove of wild peach in the outskirts of the town of Brazoria, Texas, Mexico, and after made themselves known to each other, consulted among themselves, and, after various interviews and much deliberation, resolved to make measures to establish a Lodge of Their Order in Texas. It was decided to apply to the Grand Lodge of Louisiana for a Dispensation to form and open a lodge, to be called Holland Lodge.

The name Holland was chosen in honor of W.M. John Henry Holland, the then (1835-1837) Grand Master of Louisiana.

The lodge was originally chartered by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana on 27 January 1836, making it older than the Republic of Texas.

Holland Lodge No. 1 A.F.&A.M. is the oldest Masonic lodge in Texas and a founding subordinate member of the Grand Lodge of Texas. It is in the Museum District of Houston, Texas at 4911 Montrose Boulevard.

The current building of Holland Lodge No. 1 A.F.&A.M. was erected in 1954, designed by architect Milton McGinty. The sandstone mural facade depicting the origins of Freemasonry was carved by William M. McVey.

Founding of Holland Lodge

In March 1835, Anson Jones, John Wharton, Asa Brigham, James Phelps, Alexander Russell, and J.P. Caldwell wishing to formally meet as an organized masonic lodge, met in a secluded spot on the west bank of the Brazos River, near the town of Brazoria, under a large live oak tree near the burial ground of General John Austin and petitioned the Grand Lodge of Louisiana for dispensation to organize a lodge in the Texas territory. On December 27, 1835, the dispensation was granted by John Holland, Grand Master of Louisiana. Holland Lodge No. 36 of Louisiana was instituted and opened on the second floor of the old courthouse in Brazoria, Texas. This was the first Masonic Lodge ever instituted in Texas and was the only one organized prior to the days of the Republic.

Meetings continued here until March 1836, when Brazoria was abandoned due to events related to the Texas Revolution. The members of the Lodge were scattered by the havoc of war. James Fannin, who had become a member of this lodge, was among those who had been massacred at Goliad. Jones, Wharton, and Phelps joined the Texan troops on the Colorado River.

During this time, the official charter issued to Holland Lodge #36 was delivered to Texas and presented to Anson Jones just before the Battle of San Jacinto. Jones carried the lodge charter in his saddlebag while the Battle of San Jacinto was being fought. This document arrived safely in Brazoria after the battle, but the brethren had dwindled in number post-revolution.

Original Brazoria Courthouse

In November 1837, Anson Jones assembled Masons living near Houston in the Senate Chamber of the original Capitol building (the site of the Rice Hotel and currently the Rice Lofts) and opened Holland Lodge regularly at this location until October 27, 1838. On November 13, 1837, the lodge appointed a committee to meet with members of Nacogdoches and San Augustine to organize the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas. This convention occurred on December 20, 1837 in the Senate Chamber meeting place, presided over by Sam Houston, and included representatives of Milam No.40 and McFarland No.41. The Grand Lodge’s first session was opened on April 24, 1838 at which time Texas lodges were renumbered according to the dates of dispensation. Thus was established Holland Lodge No.1, Milam Lodge No.2, and McFarland Lodge No.3. By November 1838, other lodges formed under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas, including Temple No.4 (Houston), St. Johns No.5 (Brazoria), Harmony No.6 (Galveston), Matagorda No.7 (Matagorda), and Phoenix No.8 (Washington).

The Old Capitol Building

On November 8, 1838, Holland Lodge, Temple Lodge, and the Grand Lodge of Texas (all previously meeting in the crowded Senate Chamber) secured lodge rooms in the upstairs apartments of Kesler’s Arcade at 910 Congress Avenue. After a dispute over the rent, the bodies were barred from the building in September 1839 and could not resume labor until February 1840, when they met once again in the Senate Chamber. On June 10, 1840, Holland Lodge agreed to a six-month contract for rooms in the CC Dibble Building at 201 Main Street. During this time, officers of the lodge made a new contract with the heirs of Mr. Kesler and returned to the arcade apartments between February 1841 and January 1847.
After the turbulent first decade of masonry in Texas, members of Holland Lodge sought to establish a permanent building. Brothers William Marsh Rice and Nichols offered the second story of their new building at 1011 Congress Avenue for five years for the interest on a payment of $1100 which was eventually returned to the lodge. This facility was dedicated on January 16, 1847 and served as the home of Holland Lodge, Houston Chapter #8, and Houston Council #10 until November 23, 1852.
In May 1851, a committee was formed of members from Holland Lodge, Washington Chapter #2, and Ruthven Commandery #2 and submitted a plan for a new three-story building for lodge rooms and a school. By March 1852, a lot had been purchased at the corner of Capitol and Main streets for $600. The erection of the three-story building was contracted for $2500 and completed in October 1852. As planned, the first floor was rented as a school for $20 per month, and the associated bodies met in this new hall until it was destroyed by fire in October 1862.

Holland Lodge and it’s place in Texas

All of the Presidents of the Republic of Texas were Masons…all were members of Holland Lodge!

In education, William March Rice, who founded Rice University and Ben Taub whose philanthropy was essential to the founding of the University of Houston were also members.
Entrepreneurs Peter W. Gray and Benjamin Botts founded Gray and Botts (which was the precursor to Baker and Botts) and Ross S. Sterling founder of Humble Oil later known as Exxon were also proud members!

The Masons that comprised Holland Lodge were so ingrained in the enterprise and commerce of the early days of the city of Houston that most of the downtown streets are named in their honor.

The tapestry of Texas’ history is overlaid with the lives of our Brothers, embroidered by their design and tapered by their actions. This Fraternity and this great State are indistinguishable in origin and no institution is more closely woven to the land we now occupy; We are blessed to be called Texans!

History is unchangeable and, though it is often intriguing, names and faces, locations and battles are, in a short space, lost to time. Continents are littered with the lifeless corpses of the past. But the great lesson of history is not the who, or the when, or the how…but the why!

Why did 6 men, not unacquainted with war, while revolution rested thick in the air, why in that moment did they pause and risk their very lives to found this Fraternity?  They knew that if they could somehow overcome all odds and plant the seeds of freedom in this new land, there would be a great need for this Fraternity; an institution of acceptance, a philosophy of understanding, a system of unity.
Those 6 men, our Brothers, stand united with men of Holland Lodge here today, and with all Freemasons across this great state; united in the universal cause of Brotherly Love. Our belief of the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God ring out and are echoed in the Motto of Texas: “Friendship.” We are truly “one State, under God!”

For over 180 years, Holland Lodge, formed under the Lone Star of the Republic of Texas, has spread its beneficent influence over the greater Houston area and the great State of Texas. The Grand Lodge of Texas, formed in 1837 by members of Holland Lodge, Milam Lodge and McFarland Lodge, continues to be a uniting force and, occasionally, on nights like tonight, we gather to honor those who join us in our noble cause.  Those who hope to bring a positive change in their communities, builders of future prosperity and servants of mankind.

Notable members

  • Sam Houston – Hero of San Jacinto, President of the Republic of Texas, Governor of Texas and Tennessee, US Senator
Samuel Houston
  • Anson Jones – Last President of the Republic of Texas, First Grand Master of Texas.
  • John Austin Wharton was a lawyer, plantation owner, and Confederate general during the American Civil War.
  • David G. Burnet – 1st President of the Republic of Texas (interim), Vice President of the Republic of Texas, Secretary of State of Texas.


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