Austin Lodge No. 12 History

On October 11, 1839, 14 Freemasons met at the home of Brother Edwin Waller, and voted to form a lodge in the Texas Republic’s new capital city of Austin. Grand Lodge dispensation was granted the next month, and Austin Lodge No. 12 A.F. & A.M. has been in continuous operation ever since. Austin Lodge No. 12 operates under charter from the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. Austin is no longer a small city on the Texas frontier, but Freemasonry’s principal tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth remain as relevant today as they were in 1839.

Ancient Free and Accepted Masonry was first introduced to Austin on October 11, 1839, almost a week before President Lamar made his somewhat flamboyant entry into the town to establish the Republic’s government. Edwin Waller was in charge of preparing the government buildings for occupation, but even with this burden he found time to offer his house for a meeting called “for the purpose of taking the necessary preliminary steps for the formation of a Lodge”. Fourteen Master Masons attended, agreeing to sponsor a petition for a lodge, and by the time the request was presented to the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas the number had swelled to twenty. Such immortals as Edward Burelson, Alexander Russell, Louis P. Cooke, Edwin Waller, James Izod, Charles Mason, and Joseph Waples were present to make the request. Branch T. Archer, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas, on November 7, 1839, issued a document, attested by Grand Secretary George Fisher, authorizing the organization of Austin Lodge No. 12.

Grand Master Archer appointed Anson Jones as installing officer, but he could not perform the task, so George Fisher constituted the lodge. Alexander Russell, who had lived in Texas since 1834 and had been active at Brazoria in the formation of the first Masonic Lodge in Texas, was installed as Worshipful Master. James Izod became Senior Warden, Charles Mason became Junior Warden, and Augustus Seeger served as Secretary.

At the time Austin Lodge’s formation was approved, the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas was itself only a little under two years old, having been organized at Houston on December 20, 1837. Since the capitol had been moved from Houston to Austin, it was natural that the persons connected with the government would follow, thus pulling from the Masonic strength of Houston and adding to that of the new capitol city. Austin Lodge No. 12 hosted the Grand Lodge of Texas six times between the years 1840 and 1852. Meeting at the “Lodge Room” or at “Masonic Hall” the Grand Lodge met in Austin on November 9, 1840, November 8, 1841, January 12, 1845, January 10, 1848, January 21, 1850, and January 19, 1852. Austin, was indeed a center of Masonic activity and its Masonic lodge was, no doubt, a gracious host.

The meeting places of Austin Lodge No. 12 have changed and improved with the times. From Edwin Waller’s house the group seems to have moved to the second floor of a building on the southwest corner of Sixth and Congress, where Scarbrough’s is now located. The building, owned by Alexander Russell, was shared by Lone Star Chapter No. 6, the Grand Lodge, and Austin Lodge No. 12, with the rent being about $30 per month in 1841. Meetings were held there for some time, although evidence points to the fact that some gatherings were held in the State Capitol.

1st Austin Masonic Temple

Toward the end of the 1850’s a building at the corner of Sixth Street and Guadalupe, owned by B. J. Smith, was used “temporarily as a Masonic Temple.” In the early 1860’s the lodge rented from “Phelps and Johnson” on the northwest corner of Congress and Seventh. By 1866, the lodge quarters had been moved to the George W. Glasscock brick building on the east side of Congress between Sixth and Seventh Streets. A fire destroyed this building and consumed some of the Grand Lodge and Austin lodge No. 12 archives on February 4, 1866.

Between 1866 and 1883, Austin Lodge No. 12 rented in several places, but always near Congress Avenue. George Hancock, Rust and Moore, the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, Walter Tipps, and Crow and Jones are listed as proprietors. In March 1883, a change was made to the new Masonic Temple on the southeast corner of Seventh and Colorado Streets, which served until August 1, 1923, when the move was made to the Scottish Rite Cathedral at Eighteenth and Lavaca. The Lodge met at the Scottish Rite until it moved to its own building at 4220 Bull Creek Road (Bull Creek Road and Jackson Street). This building served Austin Lodge #12 until May of 2003, when the Lodge returned to it’s former home at the Scottish Rite.

Among other accomplishments, Austin Lodge No. 12 has actively contributed much to alleviate the suffering of mankind. By 1867 a Relief Committee equipped with an “indigent fund” had been established. In 1874 a brother and his family were sent to Washington, D.C., at a cost to the lodge of $219.65, and the following year $13.25 was sent to the “coast sufferers.” Victims of the Cisco cyclone received a lodge donation of $25 in 1893, while, $100 was sent to those caught in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The Galveston storm (1900), the Paris, Texas fire (1916), the Corpus Christi flood (1919), and numerous other catastrophes have evoked contributions from the lodge membership. A gift of over $3,200 was made to the Masonic Home and School at Fort Worth in 1923. In such ways the lodge has proved its concern for humanity.

Dedication of buildings has been another area where Austin Lodge No. 12 has been active, and such occasions have brought honor to the fraternity. Sometimes the events were ornamented with parades and picnics which culminated in serious ceremonies presided over by the lodge officers. Structures of the State of Texas which had their cornerstones laid and leveled by Austin Lodge No. 12 include: the Old Land Office Building (March 31, 1851); the “Colonial” Capitol (July 4, 1852); the “Old Main” building of the University of Texas (November 17, 1882); and the present Capitol building (May 16, 1888). On September 4, 1914, the lodge was in charge of laying the cornerstone at the Scottish Rite Cathedral at Eighteenth and Lavaca, and on October 20, 1930, performed the same honors for the Travis County Courthouse. Some of the churches in Austin for which these services were conferred include the Protestant Episcopal Church (April 7, 1853), the Southwestern Methodist Church at Tenth and Brazos (September 6, 1883), and the First congregational Church (November 23, 1907). Such activities have always displayed the Masonic fraternity favorably in the public eye.

Educational activities have been attempted, but some have been more successful than others. In December 1852, Austin Lodge No. 12 announced that it would establish the Austin Masonic High School consisting of two separate departments for males and females, which, unfortunately, never came to fruition.