The History of Plano Masonry
This history of Plano Masonry with emphasis on Plano Lodge No. 768 is extracted from a non-commercially published research Manuscript, “Masonic Landmarks and Legacies: Early Plano, Texas,” with four “Addendums”. The Manuscript with its Addendums is available for Masonic Research purposes in the North Texas Masonic Historical Museum and Library, located on the first-floor of the Plano Lodge Building at 1414 J Avenue, Plano, Texas. Both Manuscript and Addendums have been digitized and are currently archived and available in the Masonic Grand Lodge Library and Museum of Waco, Texas and assigned — “Number 2019.22”.
Masonic Landmarks and Legacies: Early Plano, Texas, was written to preserve the historic early years of Plano Texas Freemasonry, which began in 1859. Source documentation included but was not limited to, such publications as Plano, Texas: The Early Years, official government records, extracted Minutes of both Plano Lodge No. 235 and No. 768 and Grand Lodge of Texas Library and Museum Archives. The reference material used to compile the Manuscript and its Addendums is appropriately attributed as contributing literary and documented sources for the edification of interested Masonic researchers. However, for this Website Insert, only partial source attribution is provided due to space limitations.
PLANO MASONRY: OVER 150 YEARS OF OUR CRAFT IN OUR COMMUNITY
On July 24, 2017 the Plano Downtown Historic District was designated in the “National Register of Historic Places” by the National Park Service. The Plano Lodge No. 768 A.F. & A.M. building located at 1414 J Avenue in Plano, Texas is recognized in that document as the southwest anchor building of the Historic District. [NPS Form 10-900, Plano Downtown Historic District, 7:17-18.]
In that same NPS document, it states that at 1430 K Avenue in downtown Plano: “A small pocket park is located at the southeast corner of East 15th Street and K Avenue. It is paved with brick, has a few trees, and boxed hedge. This parcel was once the location of [Plano] downtown’s only three-story building. Occupants included a hardware store and a fraternal lodge….” [NPS Form 10-900, Plano Downtown Historic District, 7:19.]
The reference to a “fraternal Lodge” housed in the first three-story brick building in downtown Plano located on a “small pocket park,” was the predominate factor that generated the initial research regarding the history of Plano Lodge No. 768. That research accessed Lodge Minutes, County Deeds, City Records and the 1896 Sanborn Insurance Map, which confirmed that Plano Lodge No. 768 first met in that three-story brick building on January 7, 1895. Surprisingly, that search took an unexpected twist and revealed a Masonic fact significantly pre-dating the 1895 Plano Lodge No. 768 Masonic presence at that exact location, which is the southeast anchor site of the Plano Downtown Historic District. [Archivist note: full documentation of the above is in the Manuscript and associated Addendums]
The Legacy of Plano Masonry begins with the Texas Grand Lodge Twenty-Second Annual Communication held in Huntsville, Texas on the 2nd Monday in June 1858. At that meeting, Plano Masonic Lodge No. 235 received authority to organize “Under Dispensation” from the Grand Lodge of Texas. [Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M., 1858.]
It received its Charter in June of 1859, and reportedly first met in the Spring Creek School, a “frame house,” located on the Barnett farm a few miles northwest of the current Plano downtown district. [Wells, “And a Good Time Was Had By All,” Plano, Texas: The Early Years. 132.]
George Barnett was a member of Plano Lodge No. 235 and it is affirmed:
“The social Life of Plano was centered around the church, fraternal organizations, and the many clubs formed by both men and women…. The earliest fraternal organization was the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas [sic], Lodge No. 235 chartered in 1859. Among the charter members can be found the names of some of the early settlers of Plano ….” [Campbell, “Early Social Life,” Plano, Texas: The Early Years. 326.]
In the spring of 1860, James C. Forman, also a member of Plano Lodge No. 235 and his business partner, Hampton H. Gossum, who later joined the Lodge, made it possible for Plano Lodge No. 235 to move to the tri-corner cross-road center point of the future City of Plano. The Lodge was given permission to build a second-story Lodgeroom on what was locally known as the Gossum Storehouse that was situated in the southwest quadrant of the Forman/Gossum property. The Storehouse was originally a single-story 800 square-foot building located on an approximate 21,600 square foot rectangular area extending 208-feet east-to-west and 104-feet north-to-south in the Sanford Beck Survey. The Lodgeroom had an outside stairway entrance that opened onto the north-south “Wagon Road” (K Avenue today) where Mechanic Street (15th Street) then dead-ended. County Deeds and an 1885 Sanborn Map confirms that the Gossum Storehouse was situated on the exact location as the three-story brick building described in downtown Plano on the “small pocket park,” at 1430 K Avenue.
A deeded Gossum and Forman, “Agreement,” dated on “March the 5th 1860,” identifies them as the “party of the first part,” in conjunction with Plano Lodge No. 235, “party of the second part,” which in part stated:
“Worshipful Master, Wardens & Members of Plano Lodge of Free & Excepable [sic] Masons No. 235 in the County of Collin & State…. That the party of the first part this day agree to build a Storehouse in the villege [sic] of Plano Collin County Texas 20 feet wide and 40 feet long … 10 feet [sic] story & finish the same…. The same party of the first part further agrees to give the Master Wardens & Members … [Plano Lodge No. 235], the privilege and rights to build and Erect a Masonic Hall or other building on top of the first or one story aforesaid Room or building for their Masonic fraternity’s own free use and benefit forever, the said Masonic fraternity have the full rights to complete and finish said building above the first story to their own liking and pleasure. The first on their part doth further agree to give the party of the second part the right of entrance by a doorway at the South West corner of the first Story or Room of said building from the ground floor from the outside & sufficiency of Room on the inside of said first Story for a flight of stairs into the Second Room or Story and further the party of the first part doth agree to furnish material for and Make one half of the Roof [of] said building. It is well understood that the party of the first part are the full owners of the Lot or parcel of ground said building is to be erected upon, at the same time the party of the first part doth agree to give the party of the second part the Masonic fraternity free access in and into the room that they may build forever, the party of the second part doth agree to furnish Materials and build in a Workman like Manner the upper Story or Room in specified, they agree to furnish joices [sic] upon which the floor of Said upper room shall be laid … and one half of the Material for the Roof…. [and] Make the door and Stairway of Enterance [sic] from the ground floor into the second Story … in a Neat or workman like Manner….” [Collin County Deed Records. Vol. N:182-83.] (Emphasis Added).
Forman would later sell his interest in this property to Gossum who died in 1862, leaving a wife, Angelina Flack Gossum and a minor daughter, Nannie. In 1868, the administrator for Gossum’s estate, C.T. Mann: “Sold the Gossum storehouse and lot for $1,000 to the trustees of the Masonic Lodge [No. 235] located on the second floor.” [Schell, “Mercantile Establishments,” Plano, Texas: The Early Years. 228. / Collin County Deed Records. Vol. W:934-35.]
In 1873, the Texas Legislature established the criterion for a City to Incorporate. The designated “City” area was to be determined by extending an equal distance of five hundred yards from the “City Square,” which Plano did not have. Not to be deterred, the Plano community decided the township should be established by designating: “One square mile out of the Joseph Clepper [or Klepper] and Sanford Beck surveys.” [Schell, “Mercantile Establishments—Incorporation.” Plano Texas, The Early Years. 234-35.]
The center-point of this square mile appears to have been in front of the early day Gossum Storehouse/Plano Lodge No. 235 entrance on the “wagon road,” which at the time was directly across from the Butler drug store. Historians would note that:
“The Gossum storehouse and lot was used as a point by which to describe other property close by. Thus in 1860, the east side of the Dallas-McKinney Road [Main and later K Avenue] began to be developed, and the nucleus [Center-point] of the village [Plano] was, therefore established at the point where later in 1873, West Mechanic Street (15th) would be opened and where in 1879, East Mechanic would be opened to form a crossroads with the Dallas-McKinney Road [the present day 15th Street and K Avenue intersection].” [Schell, “Mercantile Establishments — Stagecoach.” Plano, Texas, The Early Years. 226.]
In 1879 the Lodge sold a 208-foot east-to-west by 35-foot north-to-south strip “Tract” to the “Corporation of the Town of Plano” for $50.00, which represented less than $0.01 per square foot. This Tract laid between the Lodge building and property sold earlier by the Lodge to Kendrick & Aston. The City Tract was probably a foot or wagon path at one time between the Lodge and the Kendrick and Aston establishment. It physically delineated the narrowness of East 15th Street, which at that time was approximately 46 feet in width east of today’s K Avenue. This perhaps explains the awkward width of the street as depicted on later Sanborn Insurance Maps at its narrow juncture with West 15th Street, which was approximately 68 feet in width west of K Avenue. This discrepancy appears to accommodate the Lodge building’s structural “footprint,” which “bordered” upon the old path or trail-way between the buildings. [Collin County Deed Records. Bk. 13:451-52. / Schell, “Mercantile Establishments.” Plano, Texas, The Early Years. 238.]
On August 27, 1881 a calamitous fire swept the then Plano downtown business district consuming over fifty buildings to include the Gossum Storehouse and Plano Lodge Hall. [Stambaugh, A History of Collin County Texas. 57. / 1881 Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas. 8.]
Apparently up to that cataclysmic event, Plano Lodge No. 235 had enjoyed a sense of security as demonstrated by the various properties it owned in addition to its Lodge Hall and furnishings. The Lodge Brethren soon discovered they had a serious financial problem in meeting monthly obligations. Notes and liens were executed to cover debts but according to Lodge records “cash-flow” became limited, forcing the Lodge to thereafter endure a constant financial struggle to survive. However, the Lodge continued in its fraternal work ethic, conferring degrees and conducting business. Yet, the overshadowing shroud of pending insolvency draped and darkened the Lodgeroom by the never-ending need to acquire necessary operating funds, a requisite that would eventually prove to be a serious problem with severe ramifications.
Plano Lodge No. 235 soon thereafter secured a second-floor temporary meeting room in the Chaddick & Housewright Hall located on the northwest corner of Mechanic (15th) Street and Main (K Avenue). The Hall was diagonally across from the former Gossum Storehouse and Plano Lodge No. 235 Hall. [Schell, “Mercantile Establishments.” Plano, Texas: The Early Year. 239.]
In 1882, Plano Lodge No. 235 purchased a large Property Tract west of Main (K Avenue and north of Mechanic Street (15th Street) in the downtown district and built a Lodge Hall in its northeast sector that bordered on what would become “Masonic” (Street) as depicted on the 1885 Sanborn Map. Unfortunately, the financial health of the Lodge continued to deteriorate and in 1888, Plano Lodge No. 235 was forced to cease operations.
The intervening Plano Masonic years from September 1881 to December 1894 was forged in trial and tempered in turmoil. Yet, Plano Masonry would resuscitate and resurrect itself. About six years after the Demise of Plano Lodge No. 235, the smoldering embers of Plano Masonry appear to have rekindled if unnoticed in an August 29th. 1894 Plano City Council special session that seemingly addressed an innocuous and unrelated issue: “To take action on [an] application of Portman & Jones to remove the frame building on the corner of Main & Mechanic Sts. Also to remove the calaboose [local jail] off the lot…. The application being to remove the first mentioned [frame] house into the East end of the same lot … [and] sell the old calaboose.” [City Council of Plano Minutes. Book 1891-1903, August 29, 1894:151.]
This southeast corner of Mechanic and Main Streets, upon which the frame house stood, was the exact site of the original two-story Gossum Storehouse and Plano Lodge No. 235 building. The “calaboose” location places the Portman and Jones frame building squarely on that lot as confirmed by Plano historians: “In the 1880’s the calaboose was located at the back of the old Masonic [Plano No. 235] Lodge building.” [Schell, “Mercantile Establishments;” “Early Businessmen.” Plano, Texas: The Early Years. 238, 308, 320.]
Why is this significant? This property is specifically established by other documentation as a site with a Masonic heritage and would be the location of the first constructed three-story building in downtown Plano. The property deed mirrors the specified location, length and within eleven feet, the width of the Gossum Storehouse/Plano Lodge No. 235 Lot sold to Lovelace and Hudson by Plano Lodge No. 235 on October 22, 1881 soon after the August fire that destroyed the old Lodge Hall. [Collin County Deed Records. Vol. 15:46-47; Vol. 21:209-11; Vol. 75:89-90; Vol. 75:401-03; Vol. 65:604-08.]
There is no evidence that the owners of the two-story framed building, M. C. Portman, or H. C. Jones were ever Masons. However, they formed a business relationship with another prominent Plano citizen and a Plano Lodge No. 768 Charter member, Brother T. C. Jasper. Plano historians record that Portman was a “land dealer,” Jones, a “grocer” and Jasper, a “banker”. [Schell, “Mercantile Establishments.” Plano, Texas: The Early Years. 266. / Ibid. Campbell “Early Social Life.” 308, 320.]
Additionally, this three-story brick building is depicted on the 1896 Sanborn Map with the notation: “Gro. 1st [floor]—Printing 2nd [floor]—Masonic Hall 3rd [floor].”
Jasper would later become the sole owner of this building as noted on a deed signed and witnessed on December 18, 1896 indicating that the liens and notes for this property had been: “Conveyed to said T. C. Jasper a full and complete title to said house and lot freed from any lien for payment….” [Collin County Deed Records. Vol. 75:89-90; Vol. 75:401-03; Vol. 65:604-08.]
Plano Lodge No. 768 was Chartered by the Grand Lodge of Texas to commence operations on December 4, 1894. It is interesting to note that a “Lease Agreement” was initiated on November 27, 1894 before the Plano Lodge No. 768 Charter date between H. C. Jones and nineteen Charter Members of the future Lodge. The Agreement read in part: “That H. C. Jones … has rented bargained and lease unto the Said parties of the Second part [Plano Lodge]. The Third Story of his 3 Story Brick Business House recently erected in Plano Texas. Beginning on the first day of December 1894….” One of the Lodge signatures was that of Brother T. C. Jasper. [Plano Lodge No. 768 Minute Book, November 27, 1894:198.]
Plano Lodge No. 768 held its first meeting on January 7, 1895 in that building on the site where Plano Lodge No. 235 first previously met in the spring-summer of 1860. Plano Masonry had returned to the Plano Downtown Historic District. It would remain active at that location for 30-years. In August 1924, Plano Lodge No. 768 purchased and renovated the old Moore House/Commercial Hotel at 1414 J Avenue, which was built in 1895, and moved into that building on March 5, 1925 where Plano Lodge No. 768 has met ever since. [Plano Lodge No. 768 Minutes, January 7, 1895:200. / Collin County Deed Records. Vol. 251:100-01; Vol. 253, pp. 36-37.]
Not only did these early Plano Brethren forge a Masonic Fraternity they were also deeply involved with founding a City. For example, Brother William B. Blalack was a member of both Plano Lodge No. 235 and No. 768. However, he was never, to our knowledge, the Worshipful Master of either. Yet, his personal Legacy to the Plano community speaks volumes of his commitment to the Craft and its principles.
He came to Plano in 1855 and was its first Post Master. He was a civic minded Plano Mason and a dedicated public servant serving intermittently as Plano’s Mayor for sixteen years between 1873 and 1898. While Mayor, Brother Blalack was instrumental in establishing at least two prominent 19th century Plano Landmarks, the incorporation of the City of Plano and the organization of the Plano School System where he technically served as its first “ex-officio” Chairman. [Schell, “Early Businessmen.” Plano, Texas: The Early Years. 294.]
Brother Blalock exemplified a commitment to civic and Masonic duty worthy of any man or Mason. In that spirit, other noted Brethren and their familiar Masonically associated family names would come to adorn thirty-five of Plano’s Schools, Parks and Municipal Buildings.
There has been an active Masonic presence in the Plano Downtown Historic District from 1860 to 1888 and from 1895 to date, representing a cumulatively history of over 150-years.
You are invited to come join with the Brethren of Plano Lodge No. 768 and share in our Historic Masonic Landmarks and enjoy our Inherited Masonic Legacy.