In 1902, eight years after Bay City was founded, there were some twenty Masons living in the area of Bay City. They came from diverse sections of the country; no two Masons were from the same lodge. At that time there was only one Masonic Lodge in Matagorda County, Tres Palacios Lodge No. 411 A. F. & A.M., which was chartered June 8, 1884 (renamed Blessing Lodge No. 411 when it was moved to Blessing around 1903) and was situated some 15 miles from Bay City on the Tres Palacios River at Deming’s Bridge (where Hawley Cemetery is located). It is interesting to note that Matagorda Masonic Lodge No. 7, A. F. & A. M. had lost its’ charter in 1868 and was rechartered in 1911 and is active today. Bay City Lodge No. 865 signed their petition for reinstatement.
A petition for the dispensation to form a lodge in Bay City was presented to the Most Worshipful Grand Master (M.W.G.M.) of the Grand Lodge of Texas William Clark, in April 1902, and was signed by the following Master Masons from Bay City: C. F. Baker, Jr., J. W. Brown, John T. Sargent, Dr. James Byars, T. F. Carr, R. W. Fullwood, John A. Green, James M. Hamby, W. P. Johnson, W. H. Glenn, Isadore Marks, E. F. Higgins, Dr. A. S. Morton, Dr. E. E. Scott, Theodore Schaedel, John Sutherland, J. M. Moore, and W. C. Carpenter.
On April 13, 1902, the Grand Master issued his dispensation authorizing the said brethren to organize a lodge and confer the degrees of the Blue Lodge at Bay City, known as Bay City Lodge No. 865 A. F. & A. M. The petition was endorsed by Tres Palacios Lodge No. 411 A. F. & A. M. The following officers were named: W. C. Carpenter, Worshipful Master; Isadore Marks, Senior Warden; A. S. Morton, Junior Warden; E. F. Higgins, Secretary: V. L. LeTulle, Treasurer; and C. F. Baker, Tiler.
Shortly after the granting of the dispensation, the lodge was instituted by D.D.G.M. J. J. Davis of Galveston. Records as to the exact date were lost in the very strong 1909 hurricane which severely damaged the Masonic building as well as many other structures in Bay City. The charter was dated December 4, 1902.
The 23 Charter Members were: Dr. E. E. Scott, A. C. Fox, W. P. Johnson, Ernest Zuch, Isadore Marks, J. W. Brown, R.W. Fullwood, Dr. A. S. Morton, V. L. LeTulle, J. M. Moore, John A. Green, C. F. Baker, T. F. Carr, J. M. Sims, J. M. Hamby, John Sutherland, J. T. Sargent, Theodore Schaedel, Dr. James Byars, W. H. Glenn, E. F. Higgins, M. N. Cain and W. C. Carpenter.
The first lodge meetings were held on the second floor of a two-story wooden building, which housed a saloon on the first floor. Worshipful Master W.C. Carpenter wrote of the location, “Pardon the allusion, there was not an elevator connecting the two places.” [Looking at old photographs of Bay City, there was a wooden two story saloon - Gem Saloon - on the North side of the square on the Northeast corner of Ave. F and 7th St.]
On March 24, 1906, A. S. Morton, W. C. Carpenter, V. L. LeTulle, C. F. Baker and Theodore Schaedel as Trustees of the lodge purchased from N. King of Adams Co., IL and J. C. Wood of Bee Co., TX part of lot 8 in block 77 of the Bay City Townsite - a plat of ground 20 x 35 feet on the West end of the lot. [Vol. 17, pg. 221 Matagorda County Deed Records] Then on July 16, 1906 the same Trustees, in an agreement with Henry Rugeley concerning a common wall, purchased part of lots 6 and 7 in block 77 - a plat of ground 35 x 50 feet on the West end of the lots for the purpose of erecting a two story brick or concrete building, the upper floor being used for Masonic purposes and the lower floor to be rented. [Description from deed] [Vol. 17, pg. 224 Matagorda County Deed Records] The Trustees had purchased the back of the space BEFORE they purchased the front - they had great faith!
The new building was designed by Jules Leffland, Plan #1028, with Hatchett & Large (local construction company) as carpenters. In a matter of only six months the two story brick building was constructed at a cost of $7,000.00. It is described as a two story, three bay brick early 20th century commercial style building featuring elaborate brick corbelling and arched second story windows. This beautiful building still stands now, over 100 years later.
On March 8, 1908 a fire destroyed every structure on the West side of the square facing the courthouse between 6th and 7th Streets, but fortunately it was unable to cross over 7th St and damage the lodge.
The members of Masonic Lodge No. 865 have met regularly through the years, and they have conducted many Masonic funerals and appeared in public in regalia (decorations or insignia indicative of an office or membership) for special occasions.
In 1909, under proper dispensation, the lodge laid the cornerstone of the First Methodist Church in Bay City with William Walker, Worshipful Master, presiding. Mr. Walker owned the first furniture and embalming service in Bay City and also was the first Fire Chief] In 1915 the lodge laid the cornerstone for the First Baptist Church of Bay City, with Thomas H. Lewis, Worshipful Master, conducting the ceremonies. [Mr. Lewis served as a County Judge for many years]
The lodge has prospered all these years with the exception of the depression in the 1930's. There was one year during which the lodge was in arrears with the Grand Lodge of Texas for not paying assessments.
A movement was begun to build a new building due to several reasons, chief among them were the age and condition of the structure, a lack of parking space near the lodge and the difficulty some of the older members were having ascending the steep steps to reach the lodge on the second floor.
On February 8, 1961 the lodge purchased 0.674 acres of land out of the Elisha Hall League from Nathan and Dorothy Blum. The property was located on South Highway 60 (Avenue F) near the city limits. [Vol. 365 pg. 162 Matagorda County Deed Records] Little did they know of the catastrophe that was about to strike the Matagorda County area seven months later.
On September 11, 1961 Hurricane Carla caused much damage to Matagorda County and to the fifty-four year old lodge building. The building was repaired and the brethren set out to construct a new building. With donations from: York Rite Bay City Chapter No. 315, Bay City Council No. 251 and Bay City Commandery No. 74; from Bay City Chapter No. 380, Order of the Eastern Star; from the sale of the old lodge building on June 26, 1962 to Thomas L. Burchfield and Melvin A. Epstein [Vol. 288 pg 683 Matagorda County Deed Records] and with the sale of several city lots owned by the lodge, construction of the new building began in July 1962.
The official cornerstone-laying ceremony was presided over by Grand Master of Texas Robert L. Dillard, Jr. of Dallas on August 17,1962.
The building was completed in January 1963, and the lodge moved into the new building free of debt. An open house was held on Saturday January 26, 1963 and the public was invited to see their beautiful new home.
Officers of the lodge were: R. L. Chandler, Worshipful Master; A. W. Noster, Senior Warden; R. I. Hoke, Junior Warden; J. P. Mielsch, Secretary; Ramon Johnson, Treasurer; A. M. Barber, Senior Deacon; Kermit Spielman, Junior Deacon; H. I. White, Chaplain; W. E. Frazier, Senior Steward; Bert L. Huebner, Junior Steward; and D. B. Wells, Tiler. Members of the Building Committee were: George R. Brown, Chairman; C. S. Garrett, J. W. Lesiker and J. W. Sanders.
The new Matagorda County Sheriffs office administrative building was dedicated on December 27, 2006 with Brian Dodson, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas presiding over the cornerstone-laying ceremony. Ten brothers of the lodge who work for the Sheriffs Department and were present include Sheriff James Mitchell and Deputies Jake Roberts, Ron Ballenger, Stephen Baker, David Miles, Randy Worthey, Wayne Dekle, Bob Moore and Eldas J. (EJ) Bertrand.
Brothers Gregg Westmoreland, who was County Judge at the time, George Deshotels who was County Commissioner for Precinct 2 and Robert Bertrand, a Citizens Academy Alumni and the current Worshipful Master were also present.
Since the inception of the lodge in 1902 its members have been the shakers and makers of Bay City and Matagorda County with involvement in all aspects of the growth and development of the city and county, its governments, its infrastructures- fire - sheriff and police, its businesses including doctors, dentists, lawyers and funeral directors, its schools, churches and other organizations. Many of its members over the years proudly served in the military and are members of Philip H. Parker VFW Post 2438 [named after the son of Past Worshipful Master Herbert H. Parker who was a fighter pilot in WWII and was killed in action over China] and Bay City American Legion Post 11. Several lodge members have been both a Worshipful Master of the lodge and a Commander of one of the veterans organizations.
Activities Lodge No. 865 are involved in today include: annual college scholarship and at Christmas a motorcycle run to obtain toys for underprivileged children.
By 1919 the membership had grown from 23 to 159, in 2007, there were 195 members of the lodge.
T. J. Poole, Worshipful Master 1909-1910 -
photo courtesy of Blessing Masonic Lodge No. 411
Bill Stuessy, a 17-year-old high school senior, will be installed as Master Councilor of the Gulf Coast Chapter, Order of DeMolay, at open ceremonies Wednesday, Jan. 28. Stuessy was elected to the Chapter's highest chair this past week. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Stuessy.
Elected to the chair of Senior Councilor was 15-year-old Richard Morgan, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Morgan. Placed in the Junior Councilor's chair was Curtis Neumann, 16-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Neumann.
The three councilors-elect immediately named the following slate of officers for the February-May term:
Marshall, Ronnie Seerden; Chaplain, Marvin Kogutt; Senior Deacon, Gene Barber; Junior Deacon, Mickey Arnold; Senior Steward, Mike Martin; Junior Steward, C. G. Miller; Standard Bearer, Charles Hoppe; Orator, Roger Wilson; Sentinel, Claude Reinke; and Almoner, Scotty Wells.
Two teams of receptors were names: 1st Preceptor, Doug Nowell and Donald Wells; Second Preceptor, Pat Wade and Bill DeWolfe; Third Preceptor, Johnny Stansell and G. P. Hardy III; Fourth Preceptor; James Conroy and Leonard Hammond; Fifth Preceptor, Robert Noster and Jimmy Allen; Sixth Preceptor, Freddie Martin and Sammy Davidson; Seventh Preceptor, Roy Green and Butch Cashion. Richard Serrill was named Chief Preceptor, in charge of both teams.
Joe Collida, PMC, KT, was endorsed by the councilors - elect as Chapter Scribe. Jerry Dean, Joel Barlow and Johnny Long were named to the Robe & Wardrobe committee; Skipper Reddoch was placed in charge of the Flower and Sickness committee.
The Installation will start at 7:30 p. m. Wednesday, Jan. 28. at the Masonic Hall. All parents of DeMolays and interested Masons, Shriners and Eastern Star members are invited. The installing team will be headed by Joe Roth, PMC, KT, RD of the Wharton Chapter. Joe Collida, PMC, KT, and Sonny Salter, PMC, of the Gulf Coast Chapter, will deliver the Mother's Tribute. Other members of the installing team will come from chapters in the Gulf Coast District. Honor Guest for the occasion will be District Governor Harry B. Belk of Houston.
During the ceremonies, 28 members of the Gulf Coast Chapter will be awarded a total of 39 merit bars for Religion, Civic, and Ritual activity. Four members of the Chapter will receive Merit Recognition, and one member special recognition for Petition Service, according to Chapter Dad, Don Rhea.
Refreshments will be served by Martha Lee Brown, Chapter Sweetheart, and her two Duchesses, with the assistance of the Mother's Club.
Daily Tribune, January 23, 1959
Copyright 2013 -
Present by Bay City Masonic Lodge 865
Sep. 5, 2013
Feb. 18, 2016